New York waitress claims she was fired for not getting Covid jab

CDC says ‘actual risks of mRNA vaccines to pregnant person and her fetus are unknown because these vaccines have not been studied in pregnant women’

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Thursday 18 February 2021 18:07 GMT
Related video: Global COVID-19 cases start decline

A New York waitress claimed that she was fired after she told her manager that she wanted to wait to take the Covid vaccine, expressing worry about its effects on fertility.

"I do support the vaccine. I'm not, as they say, an anti-vaxxer," Bonnie Jacobson told NBC News after her employment was terminated out of the blue from the Red Hook Tavern in Brooklyn, allegedly following an email in which she told her manager that she wanted to research the vaccine's effects on pregnancy before getting the shot.

Ms Jacobson said that she and her husband were planning to have a child but hesitated when she lost her job in April at the start of the pandemic. They put the plans back in motion in August when she started working at the tavern.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website says that "the actual risks of mRNA vaccines to the pregnant person and her fetus are unknown because these vaccines have not been studied in pregnant women".

According to Ms Jacobson, her manager was at first accommodating of her concerns and didn't require her to get vaccinated, but quickly changed course. On 12 February, she got an email saying: "Please be advised that we will require that all employees receive the vaccination. This will be mandatory for all existing employees and any new hires. The exception to this policy will be if your own personal health or disability prohibits you from obtaining this vaccination. We encourage you to consult your healthcare professional to determine if getting a vaccine is right for you."

Ms Jacobson says she then emailed her boss, saying: "While I fully support the vaccine and understand its importance I do believe this is a very personal choice. I really hope this choice would not affect my employment at Red Hook Tavern. Also once there is more research to support that it does not affect fertility I would reconsider my position."

She told NBC News that her employment was ended two days after sending that email, adding: "It was really impersonal. I was honestly shocked. My gut reaction was to just say, 'OK. Fine, I'll get it. I need my job.' But that just didn't sit right with me. I was like, 'Actually, I don't think that's right. I don't think that's the choice I need to be making here.'"

The owner of the Red Hook Tavern Billy Durney told NBC News: “Once New York state allowed restaurant workers to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, we thought this was the perfect opportunity to put a plan in place to keep our team and guests safe. No one has faced these challenges before and we made a decision that we thought would best protect everyone. And, we now realize that we need to update our policy so it’s clear to our team how the process works and what we can do to support them. We’re making these changes immediately.”

The World Health Organisation recommended in January that pregnant women not get vaccinated unless they were particularly vulnerable to the virus because of underlying health conditions or possibly being exposed to it, The New York Times reported.

Muddying the waters, the WHO also said that “based on what we know about this kind of vaccine, we don’t have any specific reason to believe there will be specific risks that would outweigh the benefits of vaccination for pregnant women".

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